The Wichita Police Department is using books to bridge the gap between their officers and the community.
Through a partnership with the Wichita Community Foundation and Watermark Books & Cafe, police officers will be delivering books to Wichita families who choose to participate in a new, free program called Building Bridges through Books. The program also aims to improve literacy in the community.
“Our objective here is two-fold: One, to increase the conversation between community and the police department that serves them, and also to distribute books by police officers to families on a neutral ground that could maybe, possibly start a conversation with, ‘What have you read lately?’” said Sarah Bagby, owner of Watermark Books.
Officer Charley Davidson, a spokesman for the Wichita Police Department, said it is unfortunate an officer’s most common interaction with the community is during a crisis.
“This is an opportunity to build bridges through books – for us to build a bridge with our community and connecting through these books,” Davidson said.
To reach as many people as possible, the partnership sent out 14,000 informational postcards about the program to families blanketed across Wichita on Tuesday.
If a family does not receive a postcard to sign up for the program, they can contact Watermark Books at 316-682-1181. Supply is limited and first come, first serve. The deadline to sign up for free books is July 25.
The free books are funded through a $160,000 grant from the Impact Literacy Initiative of the Wichita Community Foundation. They plan to host three book distributions this year.
“This is hope of us helping elevate reading of children and starting a conversation between children and their parents about the importance of what reading and literacy can do in their lives, which we hope will ultimately lead to a better workforce in our community,” said Courtney Bengtson of the Wichita Community Foundation.
A range of books for all age groups were selected based on entertainment value, how easy they are to relate to, discussion points and quality of writing. Books include “Towers Falling,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “One Crazy Summer,” and “Frog and Toad.”
“We’ve all heard stories of books changing lives,” Bagby said. “Books are shared, they’re cherished, they’re banned, they’re appreciated. But when a book is read, loved and discussed, there’s a certain bridge that’s built between the reader and the other reader, and they connect together – that is our objective here.”
Books will be hand delivered to families by a uniformed police officer in mid-to-late August. A few weeks after the delivery, community gatherings will be held in each quadrant of the city to celebrate the discussions with police officers. Location and time are still to be determined.
Building Bridges through Books
▪ Answer questions about your family and their ages.
▪ The bookstore will select books of interest.
▪ A uniformed officer will deliver books to your family in August.
▪ Read and discuss your books.
▪ Attend a community celebration event with the officers.